Always Graceful – by Jerry Richard
The name Evelyn Einstein has been a mixed blessing. It instilled pride to those who were related to Albert, and annoyance at the questions, often silly, it provoked to those related and not related. It was a particular burden to Evelyn who could never be sure if she was related or not. Shortly before her unhappy marriage, she confided to me that she was doing so in part to get rid of her surname. Yet, once divorced she reverted to Einstein, and always kept a picture of Einstein in her apartment. She also edited a book of children’s letters addressed to Albert and had happy memories of being with him.
Evelyn and I met at Rikudom (*) , a dancing group where I had recently rejoined the exhibition team and she was a new member. Neither of us came with partners, and so we were assigned to each other. That was in the late Fifties. People whispered things to me: She is an Einstein. She is not really an Einstein. Her father is Einstein’s son. She is adopted. As we got to know each other, none of that mattered. Always graceful, she gradually became more relaxed, and dancing was fun. We became friends.
Shortly after she broke up with Grover (she always said he kicked her out) and began working as a cult deprogrammer, she came to visit us in Seattle were I was then teaching. While here, she told horror stories about cults, and confided later that she did so in part to inoculate our two young children against cult recruits. In that, she succeeded.
My wife and I kept in touch with her sporadically. I always learned something from her. She had hoards of knowledge, often esoteric. I did not know how badly off she was until the last few years when her health problems started to get the better of her. We then spoke on the phone almost every week, and my wife and I visited once when we were in Berkeley. Beyond the ambiguity of her heritage, she resented the assumption of many that she must be wealthy when in fact she was impoverished. At the time she objected to the magazine article that described her as a bag lady. Too many problems, too much uncertainty for one person.
Evelyn helped many people.
The one person she seemed unable to help was herself.
We will miss her.
*Rikudom was a dancing group led by Grace West, a Protestant who felt an affinity for Israeli music and dance. They chose the name Rikudom, a contraction of the Hebrew words “rikud’ and “am,” “Dancing People.” This unusual group, whose members were mostly non-Jewish, but had a deep interest in anything connected to Israel, ranged from high school students to grandparents. Rikudom was vital and spirited. Each session also included singing Israeli songs.
In 1960, after Grace West retired, Ruth Browns took over until 1970. Under Browns’ leadership, it grew to one hundred weekly participants. It had a performing group with a core of twenty members, gaining recognition as an ethnic folk dance group affiliated with the Folk Dance Federation of California. Since 1999, the group no longer meets. However, it still gathers to celebrate Passover, its original anniversary date.